I was recently part of a virtual session with my fellow Ecosystm analysts, discussing what transformation will look like for various industries. One of the points that emerged is that the one industry that has had to transform itself completely, without having the luxury or time to think about it is Healthcare. Healthcare will emerge from this a transformed industry – in their rapid tech adoption; in their business processes and; in the mindset of the clinicians and administrative staff who’ve been at the frontline of this crisis. Will this be a revolution, or will the industry have to step back, once the immediate crisis is over?
Here are my thoughts on what is happening to the industry now and where we might be headed.
#1 Are we closer to our remote care dream?
I know I don’t sound very futuristic when I say that the biggest win from this crisis for the Healthcare industry will be the widespread adoption of telemedicine. We have heard the term bandied around for more than half a century now and over the years we have coined terms such as eHealth, digital health, mHealth and remote care, with the evolution of technology. Several healthcare providers in the Asia Pacific have implemented teleconsultation facilities to provide healthcare to remote, underserved regions and to out-of-country patients (especially those that actively seek to serve in the medical tourism space). Even for healthcare organisations that have the technology capabilities, it did not always make financial or regulatory sense to push for widespread adoption.
They have had to rush into it now, often throwing caution about cybersecurity and compliance to the winds. I am not saying that their hesitation will not return once this immediate crisis dies down – but what will happen is that governments will work with cybersecurity and legal experts to mandate it better. Once these guidelines are clearer, healthcare providers will be forced to create workflows and assign responsibilities. So, remote care where your healthcare provider will liaise with the data from your personal devices is not far off.
#2 Will we see a second wave of health and wellness apps?
With the rise of the use of smartphones, the last decade has seen a steady rise in healthcare apps. Most of these apps sync with health and wellness devices, but some use data from FDA-approved clinical devices, targeting chronic health conditions. This pandemic and the allied challenges of surviving in uncertain times, locked down in their homes, has also seen a rise of mental and emotional challenges. There will be a consumer uptake of these apps, as people realise that mental and emotional health can be as critical as physical illnesses. We will, therefore, see a proliferation of mental well-being apps.
Several organisations are having to deal with a remote workforce, with no clear visibility on how their employees are coping. It is not too far-fetched to imagine HR practices in some organisations, leveraging wellness apps – if not to monitor their employees’ mental state (that would be unethical), but – to engage with their remote employees and motivate them. These communications will largely be around the business, but some will use gamification to keep employees connected to the organisation’s visions and goals.
#3 Will healthcare providers realise the importance of evolving their supply chain management?
The healthcare industry, for all the cutting-edge research, that it represents has been remarkably slow to transform. The common perception of healthcare transformation is better clinical outcomes, genomics etc. But the reality is that most tech adoption in hospitals happens in Operations. The earliest impact of this crisis, when it was still confined to China was the disruption of the supply chain. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for the Healthcare industry to not be able to halt operations because of lack of resources? Premier healthcare institutions, mostly in the US, had realised the importance of better supply chain management long back – some implementing Lean and Six Sigma. Now healthcare organisations the world over – even in emerging economies – will adopt more technology in managing their supply chain.
However, what the COVID-19 crisis has exposed is the need for better collaboration and better visibility of external resources, to handle unprecedented scenarios. Countries that have done well to manage the crisis are those where the government took the vital step of encouraging and being the hub for cross-agency collaboration. Horror stories of US states outbidding each other for PPEs have emerged. On the other hand, we have had countries where governments have been able to guide healthcare providers on bed availability – across the public and private sector – so that affected patients could move seamlessly from one facility to another without any impact on the clinical outcome. Having a siloed view of your supply chain may not be sufficient in combating larger challenges – some healthcare organisations at least will opt for a more collaborative supply chain.
#4 Did super specialisation leave us underprepared?
Healthcare professionals have also been impacted in hugely different ways. On the one hand, we have nurses and doctors working 7-day shifts (without breaks), and healthcare systems looking to bring back retired clinicians to counter the shortage of healthcare staff. The Irish prime minister re-joined the healthcare workforce, making international headlines. On the other hand, we have several specialists who have practically no patient volume. Many of them are using teleconsultations to give basic healthcare advice and to guide patients on when to actually go into a hospital and when not. Several of these doctors actually want to help combat the COVID-19 crisis. But they will be the first to acknowledge that they are hesitant because they may have lost the skills needed to handle emergency situations.
While specialised knowledge in a particular disciple has helped improve clinical outcomes and often keep healthcare costs down – the rise of speciality hospitals in India is a good example – does it also leave doctors unprepared in times of crisis? Many doctors across the globe get subsidised education – partly funded by citizen taxes. Is it time for countries to look at a process where these doctors, irrespective of their specialisation, have to get re-trained in emergency services for a fixed period every year?
#5 What happens when the focus shifts to re-building other industries?
While the Healthcare industry has undoubtedly transformed, one must bear in mind that often transformation is a slower, steadier and more detailed journey. A transformation that rises out of disruption may not be successful in the longer term. Moreover, every healthcare provider organisation has had to evolve their processes almost in an isolated manner. Once the immediate crisis is over, the industry needs to take a pause (if they are able to) and take stock of the new practices and processes and evaluate what can continue and what has enormous associated risks.
But realistically, the Healthcare crisis is far from over. Once the threats from COVID-19 subside, healthcare providers will have to focus on elective procedures and other healthcare issues that are being put on hold now. People will visit hospitals more to consult about the health issues that they have been ignoring during these times. This will also coincide with when governments focus on re-building other industries – so Healthcare may not have access to emergency funds that they have now.
While we are all focused on handling the current crisis, now is also the time for healthcare policymakers to think ahead on how to sustain and evolve the Healthcare industry.
The global Ecosystm AI study reveals the top priorities for FMCG companies, focused on adopting emerging technologies (Figure 1). It is clear that their key priority is to handle the competitive market by focusing both on the consumer and the supply chain. Supply chain optimisation through demand forecasting ensures that they are not managing extra stock, and simultaneously not losing out on customers because of lack of stock. This just-in-time inventory management includes initiatives such as pricing optimisation in response to market demand, competition and – especially in the case of perishables – ensuring that stock closer to the use by date is cleared.
Technology as an Enabler of FMCG Transformation
The one advantage that FMCG companies have today is they have access to enormous customer and inventory data. As a result, they are able to leverage several emerging technologies to transform.
One area that is transforming the industry is digital marketing which includes multiple aspects such as search engine marketing, video marketing, social media activity and email marketing. While several technologies come together for a digital marketing solution and AI is a key component of the solutions, there are platforms that provide an end-to-end solution.
Digital marketing is most effective with a targeted group of customers and when organisations can identify digital or social champions. Johnson & Johnson’s Babycenter.com is a good example of how creating a digital community can help market products. The core idea behind the website is to give expecting and new mothers advice on early childhood. While on the surface it appears disassociated from Johnson & Johnson, the site almost exclusively carries their advertisements. This gives them a targeted base to push their products to. Dollar Shave Club is another example of how brands can leverage digital marketing. Their social media engagement has been so successful that they got bought over by Unilever. The digital campaign includes incentivising members with their products for posting about them on Instagram or Facebook.
FMCG companies are investing in Blockchain and digital ledger technologies for track and trace functionalities and operational efficiency. The technology not only helps manage the supply chain better by effective shipping timelines maintenance, delivery management and inventory management; it also helps build trust in a brand. It helps in compliance management, reduces the number or need for middlemen, easier handling of cross-border transactions and brings about an end-to-end accountability.
Danone initiated a Track & Connect service for their baby formula using Blockchain for transparency and traceability to show the authenticity of their products to parents and for better customer experience. FMCG companies will benefit immensely from the farm-to-fork accountability concept initiated by Agriculture.
From predictive analysis to machine learning to deep learning, AI is bringing a lot of benefits to FMCG companies. AI is enabling companies to discover gaps (both in their consumer interactions and in the supply chain) and make their processes intelligent – including demand forecasting, supply chain optimisation, personalised product offerings, social media analytics, consumer sentiment analytics and recommendation engines.
FMCG organisations are analysing internal and external data sources for both sales and improved customer experience. As FMCGs are forced to sell online to remain competitive, they have access to a high volume of the consumer as well as supply chain and inventory management data. Coca Cola remains one of the leaders in the FMCG market by leveraging this data, including product research and social data mining. Even their vending machines are looking to leverage AI for personalised offerings and for loyalty programs.
The need to enhance the customer experience has also seen innovations like the Maggi Chatbot – “Kim”- that helps customers learn about Maggi recipes, ingredients and dietary requirements, through Facebook Messenger.
FMCG companies that cannot afford to invest in technologies such as AI also have the option of leveraging the technology offerings of their online retail platform. eBay offers analytics as a service to the sellers – offering them data, metrics and analytics to help them succeed. They also introduced computer vision technology to help sellers create clearer and more attractive images for the platform.
In this competitive market, we will see FMCG companies – and not just the big global brands but also the local producers – embrace more technology.
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Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI), an organisation established under Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, is an affiliate of Enterprise Singapore and focuses on technology innovations in the industry that can empower enterprises to develop new processes, products, and services. IPI has identified Blockchain Technology for Food as an area where the industry can benefit from innovation. The ecosystem will also benefit from the information gathered, with the potential to further improve the production chain.
Taking supply chain visibility a step further, Blockchain technology is being used for fraud prevention – especially payment fraud. Financial transactions are complex and involve multi-step processes and human intervention – involving collaterals, settlement, currency denominations, third-party mediation, and so on. It is often the prime target for fraudsters. The most common instances of fraud involve bank to bank transactions, mobile payments, and digital identity fraud, essentially by tampering with ID or using it an unsanctioned way – providing unauthorised access to digital systems and falsifying information.
Blockchain helps automate preventive measures enabling real-time information sharing which is transmitted on a chain of connected devices where all the nodes in a system verify the transaction. Since it stores the data on several nodes and every other user on the network has a copy of the entire data on the Blockchain, it is virtually impossible to hack or destroy it completely.
Earlier this year, Standard Chartered Singapore showcased their cross-border trade finance transaction which digitalises trade processes and financing documentation. Blockchain enabled the transaction between parties by digitally streamlining the documentation process while providing security and transparency between the partners. Not only does it support the clients’ entire supply chain, but it also creates a transparent way to provide same-day trade financing.
Non-profit organisation BitGive Foundation uses Blockchain technology to provide greater visibility to their donors into the receipt of funds and how they are used by sharing financial information and project results in real-time. The GiveTrack project is built on Bitcoin and Blockchain and is a user-friendly, data-centered and comprehensive user interface. People making donations can precisely track the donations and how the funds were used.
Legal & Compliance
In industries that have higher Compliance & Regulatory requirements, Blockchain can enable safe, secure, and scalable data-sharing. The industry is seeing instances of self-executing contracts, smart registries, secure and time-stamped documents with Blockchain. Blockchain is introducing abilities to record events for a long duration which might include indisputable claims, criminal records, case procedures to support the potential legal work.
Dubai launched a city wide blockchain strategy. Dubai Land Department is implementing blockchain to make property transactions secure, transparent and immutable, thereby reducing fraud and eliminating reams of physical documents. This impacts the entire ecosystem – customers, developers, the land department, utility providers, payment channels, and municipalities – to work in collaboration.
Shipping companies that need to enforce global contracts daily are also benefitting from Blockchain. However, the biggest use cases will eventually come from the Public Sector – across citizen services and criminal justice systems. For instance, National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) is testing Blockchain e-voting facilities. The project is still at the pilot stage and aims to tokenised voting which makes it easy to conduct test and audit for the votes. This allows the regulating authorities to access real-time data, and at the same time, provides means to audit the regulators.
73% of global organisations believe that a data breach is inevitable, according to the Ecosystem Cybersecurity Study, and only 18% of them use some form of tokenisation and other cryptographic tools. Blockchain technology offers several capabilities in mitigating cybersecurity risks and detecting and combating cyber attacks. For example, Blockchain can be used to prevent DDoS attacks, and crypto secured biometric keys can replace passwords providing robust ID authentication systems, more secure DNS and decentralised storage. Blockchain implementation can also prevent man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks by encrypting the data in transit so it is not manipulated during the transmission or accessed by unauthorised parties – thus maintaining data integrity and confidentiality.
eGovernment initiatives will also benefit from Blockchain. The biggest stumbling block for providing eservices has always been cybersecurity, where the Government cannot be sure that the citizens are able to access their own records in a secure manner. It has always been a question of responsibility and liability – is the Government liable for a data breach that happens because of a citizen’s fault? Estonia is using Blockchain to protect their digital services such as electronic health records, legal records, police records, banking information, covering data and devices from attacks, misuse, and corruption.
The ultimate benefit of Blockchain will be realised when it is used to enhance Customer Experience (CX). It brings transparency in doing business, gives on-demand data visibility and fosters trust in customers. A company that shows all transactions between the company and the customer, and in a secure manner, can create a better relationship, increase overall customer satisfaction and retain their customers in a competitive market. For example, Blockchain technology can allow more secure and transparent loyalty programmes, through token creation that can be redeemed on-demand, without customer service intervention. Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer structures their payments and loyalty programme with Blockchain. Their digital wallet enables members to convert KrisFlyer miles into KrisPay miles instantly to pay for their purchases at partner merchants. The users can pay through an application by scanning a QR code at a merchant’s location .
Customers will increasingly look for ease of use and security in their transactions. Bank of America has filed a patent for Blockchain powered ATM, for securing records and authenticating business and personal data. This will boost the transaction rate and facilitate various transaction experience with full encryption and security. Blockchain-enabled transactions can be registered and completed with greater easy while lowering the transaction costs for customers and keeping the network safe.
While Blockchain technology is continuing to evolve for a range of applications and industries, it comes with its own share of risks. Adoption should not be based on the hype around the technology but should be evaluated carefully. The starting point should obviously be a real business needs analysis.
Speak with an expert today to evaluate whether your organisation can benefit from Blockchain.